Majority of adults feel it is not morally acceptable to view pornographic websites and videos


NOTE TO EDITORS: See MIM president Bob Peters’ comments below.

NEW YORK (July 20, 2006) – Almost three in four (73%) U.S. adults think that viewing pornographic websites and videos is morally unacceptable, according to a survey commissioned by Morality in Media and conducted by Harris Interactive.  This compares with 21% who feel that viewing pornographic websites and videos is morally acceptable. The question and overall breakdown of responses are as follows: “Do you consider it to be morally acceptable to view pornographic websites and videos?”

21%–Yes 73%– No 4%–Not Sure 2%–Refused

While the results indicate that majorities of all major demographic segments view this practice to be morally unacceptable, the findings also indicate differences based on key demographic variables.

There is no question that older-Americans, and in particular older-female Americans, are most likely to feel that it is morally unacceptable to view pornographic websites and videos. Conversely, younger Americans, and in particular younger male Americans, are most likely to feel viewing pornographic material is morally acceptable. Overall, the data show that 64% of males and 81% of females consider it unacceptable, while 29% of males and 13% of females consider it acceptable.

Specifically, the data show that the following percentages of males and females in various age groupings feel that viewing pornographic websites and videos is not morally acceptable:

51% of males
ages18 to 34
    65% of males
ages 35-54
    77% of males
ages 55+
73% of females
ages 18-34
    81% of females
ages 35-54
    90% of females
ages 55+

The following percentages of males and females in various age groupings feel that viewing pornographic material is morally acceptable:

44% of males
ages 18 to 34
          29% of males
ages 35-54
          15% of males
ages 55+
23% of females
ages 18-34
          13% of females
ages 35-54
          4% of females
ages 55+

The opinions toward viewing this type of material also vary based on education levels and total annual household income. 81% of U.S. adults with a high school education or less say it is not morally acceptable versus 66% for those with at least some college education or higher; 79% of U.S. adults whose total annual household income is less than $60,000 say it is not morally acceptable versus 59% for those whose annual household income exceeds $60,000.

Eight-in-ten Republicans (82%) as well as seven-in-ten Independents (71%) and Democrats (68%) say it is not morally acceptable to view this type of material. Similarly, self-identified conservatives (86%) are most likely to view this practice to be unacceptable, followed by moderates (68%) and liberals (63%).

The results show that married adults (76%) are more likely to find viewing this material not morally acceptable than are single adults (63%). Similarly, adults who have children, either in the home (74%) or grown (82%), are more likely to believe that viewing this material is not morally acceptable than those who do not have children (63%).

There are also substantial differences based on religion. For example, among those who identify themselves as Catholic, only 21% and 13% of those saying they are Baptists consider it morally acceptable to view pornography, while 42% indicating they are “other non-Christian” (this category includes atheists and agnostics) consider it acceptable.

Robert W. Peters, President of Morality in Media, had the following comments:

“Those who defend pornography, whether in court or in the court of public opinion, point to the proliferation of this sordid material as ‘proof’ either that everyone is viewing it or that people no longer deem pornography unacceptable. The porn defenders overlook at least three factors.

“First, much if not most pornography is consumed by a relatively small percentage of males who are hooked on it. Second, just because a person, whether out of curiosity or at a weak moment or for a period of time, views pornography does not mean he has become a devotee of it. This is especially true when Internet pornographers use aggressive and unscrupulous means to bring people to their websites, including porn spam, using innocent sounding domain names and common misspellings of websites, buying up expired domain names, manipulating search engine results, and ‘mouse trapping.’ Third, even among long-term users, not all approve of their own behavior. Many addicts hate what they do.

“It is disturbing that so many younger males think it is morally acceptable to view pornography. Since males are vulnerable to visual depictions of sex, however, perhaps it should not come as a surprise. For more than a decade, children have been stumbling into and seeking out commercial websites that allow visitors to view (as teasers) pornography without cost or proof of age. For this, we can thank the Supreme Court, which has failed to uphold laws intended to restrict children’s access to Internet pornography. Colleges have also contributed to the ‘pornification’ of youth culture by refusing to take steps to prevent use of school computers to access pornographic websites. For a recent look at the college porn scene, see K. Blodget, “Pornography Becomes More Socially Accepted,” The Dartmouth, 5/4/06. Meanwhile, the entertainment media can’t seem to do enough to promote pornography and porn stars.

“In its ‘2006 State of the Industry’ report, the Free Speech Coalition (the ‘trade association of the adult entertainment industry’) states, ‘Adult entertainment has become widely accepted by Americans across the nation, especially in recent years. Adult stars appear in mainstream films and talk shows. There are best selling books by adult entertainment personalities. Films celebrate industry heroes like Larry Flynt.’ ‘Furthermore,’ the report continues, ‘if adult entertainment is widely accepted by mainstream populations, then the use of criminal obscenity law to regulate it is unconstitutional.’ “In the 1974 Hamling v. United States obscenity case, the Supreme Court said that the word ‘obscene’ connotes sexual conduct that is ‘portrayed in a manner so offensive as to make it unacceptable under current community mores.’ The Court also said that the ‘mere availability’ of similar pornography in the community does not prove that the pornography a defendant is charged with distributing is not obscene.”

“In the 1973 Miller v. California case, the Supreme Court also limited the reach of obscenity laws to ‘hard-core’ pornography. And presumably, even among those who in general think it is acceptable to view ‘pornography,’ many would draw a line somewhere when it comes to ‘hard-core’ pornography.”


This telephone survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Morality in Media among 997 adults (aged 18 and over) within the United States between July 7-11, 2006. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. With a pure probability sample of 997 adults one could say with a 95% probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points. Harris Interactive is the 13th largest and fastest growing market research firm in the world.
Author: MIM   07/20/2006

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